s almost moved to tears.
Early in the morning a slight noise wakened Raisky, and he sat up to see
Mark disappear through the window. He does not like the straight way, he
thought, and stepped to the window. Mark was going through the park, and
vanished under the thick trees on the top of the precipice. As he had no
inclination to go to bed again, he put on a light overcoat and went down
into the park too, thinking to bring Mark back, but he was already far
below on the bank of the Volga. Raisky remained standing at the top of
the precipice. The sun had not yet risen, but his rays were already
gilding the hill tops, the dew covered fields were glistening in the
distance, and the cool morning wind breathed freshness. The air grew
rapidly warmer, giving promise of a hot day. Raisky walked on in the
park, and the rain began to fall. The birds sang, as they darted in all
directions seeking their morning meal, and the bees and the humble-bees
hummed over the flowers. A feeling of discomfort came over Raisky. He
had a long day before him, with the impressions of yesterday and the day
before still strong upon him. He looked down on the unchanging prospect
of smiling nature, the woods and the melancholy Volga, and felt the
caress of the same cooling breeze. He went forward over the courtyard,
taking no notice of the greetings of the servants or the friendly
advances of the dogs.
He intended to go back to his room to turn the tenseness of his mood to
account as an artistic motive in his novel; but as he hurried past the
old house, he noticed that the door was half open, and went in. Since
his arrival he had only been here for a moment with Marfinka, and had
glanced into Vera's room. Now it occurred to him to make a closer
inspection. Passing through his old bedroom and two or three other rooms,
he came into the corner room, then with an expression of extreme
astonishment in his face he stood still.
Leaning on the window-sill, so that her profile was turned towards him,
stood a girl of two or three and twenty, looking with strained curiosity,
as if she were following some one with her eyes, down to the bank of the
Volga. He was startled by the white, almost pallid face under the dark
hair, the velvet-black eyes with their long lashes. Her face, still
looking anxiously into the distance, gradually assumed an indifferent
expression. The girl glanced hastily over park and courtyard, then as
she turned and caught sight of him, shrank back.
"Sister Vera!" he cried.
Her face cleared, and her eyes remained fixed on him with an expression
of modest curiosity, as he approached to kiss her.
She drew back almost imperceptibly, turning her head a little so that
his lips touched her cheek, not her mouth, and they sat down opposite
Impatient to hear her voice he began: "How eagerly I have expected you,
and you have stayed away so long."
"Marina told me yesterday that you were here."
Her voice, though not so clear as Marfinka's, was still fresh and
"Grandmother wanted to send you word of my arrival, but I begged her not
to tell you. When did you return? No one told me you were here."
"Yesterday, after supper. Grandmother and my sister don't know I am here
yet. No one saw me but Marina."
She threw some white garments that lay beside her into the next room,
pushed aside a bundle and brought a table to the window. Then she sat
down again, with a manner quite unconstrained, as if she were alone.
"I have prepared coffee," she said. "Will you drink it with me. It will
be a long time before it is ready at the other house. Marfinka gets up
"I should like it very much," he replied, following her with his eyes.
Like a true artist he abandoned himself to the new and unexpected
"You must have forgotten me, Vera," he remarked after a pause, with an
affectionate note in his voice.
"No," she said, as he poured out the coffee, "I remember everything. How
was it possible to forget you when Grandmother was for ever talking
He would have liked to ask her question after question, but they crowded
into his brain in so disconnected a fashion that he did not know where
"I have already been in your room. Forgive the intrusion," he said.
"There is nothing remarkable here," she said hastily, looking around as
if something not intended for strange eyes might be lying about.
"Nothing remarkable, quite right. What book is that?"
He put out his hand for the book under her hand; she rapidly drew it
away and put it behind her on the shelf.
"You hide it as you used to hide the currants in your mouth. But show it
"Do you read books that may not be seen?" he said, laughingly as she
shook her head.
"Heavens! how lovely she is!" he thought. And he wondered how such
beauty could have lost its way in such an outlandish place. He wanted to
touch some answering chord in her heart, wanted her to reveal something
of her feelings, but his efforts only produced a greater coldness.
"My library was in your hands?"
"Yes, but later Leonid Ivanovich took it over, and I was glad to be
relieved of the charge."
"But he must have left you a few books?"
"Oh no! I read what I liked, and then surrendered the books."
"What did you like?"
She looked out of the window as she answered: "A great many. I have
"Do you care for music?"
She looked at him inquiringly before she said, "Does that mean that I
play myself, or like to hear music?"
"I don't play, but I like to hear music, but what music is there here?"
"But what are your particular tastes?" Again she looked at him
inquiringly. "Do you like housekeeping, or needlework. Do you do
"No, Marfinka likes and understands all those things."
"But what do you like? A book only occupies you for a short time. You
say that you don't do any needlework, but you must like something,
"Flowers, yes, in the garden, but not in the house where they have to be
tended. I love this corner of God's earth, the Volga, the precipice, the
forest and the garden-these are the things I love," she said, looking
contentedly at the prospect from the window.
"What ties bind you to this little place?"
She gave no answer, but her eyes wandered lovingly over the trees and
the rising ground, and finally rested on the dazzling mirror of water.
"It is a beautiful place," admitted Raisky, "but the view, the river
bank, the hills, the forest-all these things would became tedious if
they were not inhabited by living creatures which share our feelings and
exchange ideas with us."
She was silent.
"Vera!" said Raisky after a pause.
"Ah!" she said, as if she had only just heard his remarks, "I don't live
alone; Grandmother, Marfinka...."
"As if you shared your sympathies and thoughts with them. But perhaps
you have a congenial spirit here?"
Vera nodded her head.
"Who is that happy individual?" he stammered, urged on by envy, terror
"The pope's wife with whom I have been stopping," said Vera as she rose
and shook the crumbs from her apron. "You must have heard of her."
"The pope's wife!" he repeated.
"When she is here with me we both admire the Volga, we are never tired
of talking about it. Will you have some more coffee? May I have it
"The pope's wife," he repeated thoughtfully, without hearing her
question, and the smile on her lips passed unobserved.
"Will you have some more coffee?"
"No. Do you care for Grandmother and Marfinka?"
"Whom else should I hold dear?"
"Well-me," he retorted, jesting.
"You too," she said, looking gaily at him, "if you deserve it."
"How does one earn this good fortune?" he asked ironically.
"Love, they say, is blind, gives herself without any merit, is indeed
blind," she rejoined.
"Yet sometimes love comes consciously, by way of confidence, esteem and
friendship. I should like to begin with the last, and end with the first.
So what must one do, dear sister, to attract your attention."
"Not to make such round eyes as you are doing now for instance, not to
go into my room-without me, not to try to find out what my likes and
"What pride! Tell me, Sister, forgive my bluntness: Do you pride
yourself on this? I ask because Grandmother told me you were proud."
"Grandmother must have her finger in everything. I am not proud. In what
connection did she say I was?"
"Because I have made a gift of these houses and gardens to you and
Marfinka. She said that you would not accept the gift. Is that true?
Marfinka has accepted on the condition that you do not refuse.
Grandmother hesitated, and has not come to a final decision, but waits,
it seems, to see what you will say. And how shall you decide. Will a
sister take a gift from a brother?"
"Yes, I accept ... but no, I can buy the estate. Sell it to me.... I
have money, and will pay you 50,000 roubles for it."
"I will not do it that way."
She looked thoughtfully out on the Volga, the precipice, and the park.
"Very well. I agree to anything you please, so long as we remain here."
"I will have the deed drawn up."
"Yes, thank you!" she said, stretching out both hands to him.
He pressed her hands, and kissed Vera on the cheek. She returned the
pressure of his hands and kissed the air.
"You seem really to love the place and this old house."
"And you, do you mean to stay here long?"
"I don't know. It depends on circumstances-on you."
"Come over to the other house."
"I will follow you. I must first put things straight here. I have not
The less Raisky appeared to notice Vera, the more friendly Vera was to
him, although, in spite of her aunt's wishes she neither kissed him nor
addressed him as "thou." But as soon as he looked at her overmuch or
seemed to hang on her words, she became suspicious, careful and reserved.
Her coming made a change in the quiet circle, putting everything in a
different light. It might happen that she said nothing, and was hardly
seen for a couple of days, yet Raisky was conscious every moment of her
whereabouts and her doings. It was as if her voice penetrated to him
through any wall, and as if her doings were reflected in any place where
he was. In a few days he knew her habits, her tastes, her likings, all
that love on her outer life. But the indwelling spirit, Vera herself,
remained concealed in the shadows. In her conversation she betrayed no
sign of her active imagination and she answered a jest with a gay smile,
but Raisky rarely made her laugh outright. If he did her laughter broke
off abruptly to give place to an indifferent silence. She had no regular
employment. She read, but was never heard to speak of what she read; she
did not play the piano, though she sometimes struck discords and
listened to their effects.
Raisky noticed that their aunt was liberal with observation and warnings
for Marfinka; but she said nothing to Vera, no doubt in the hope that
the good seed sown would bear fruit.
Vera had moments when she was seized with a feverish desire for activity;
and then she would help in the house, and in the most varying tasks with
surprising skill. This thirst for occupation came on her especially when
she read reproach in her aunt's eyes. If she complained that her guests
were too much for her, Vera would not bring herself to assist
immediately, but presently she would appear in the company with a bright
face, her eyes gleaming with gaiety, and astonished her aunt by the
grace and wit with which she entertained the visitors. This mood would
last a whole evening, sometimes a whole day, before she again relapsed
into shyness and reserve, so that no one could read her mind and heart.
That was all that Raisky could observe for the time, and it was all the
others saw either. The less ground he had to go on however, the more
active his imagination was in seeking to divine her secret.
She came over every day for a short time, exchanged greetings with her
aunt and her sister, and returned to the other house, and no one knew
how she passed her time there. Tatiana Markovna grumbled a little to
herself, complained that her niece was moody, and shy, but did not
For Raisky the whole place, the park, the estate with the two houses,
the huts, the peasants, the whole life of the place had lost its gay
colours. But for Vera he would long since have left it. It was in this
melancholy mood that he lay smoking a cigar on the sofa in Tatiana
Markovna's room. His aunt who was never happy unless she was doing
something, was looking through some accounts brought her by Savili;
before her lay on pieces of paper samples of hay and rye. Marfinka was
working at a piece of lace. Vera, as usual, was not there.
Vassilissa announced visitors; the young master; from Kolchino.
"Nikolai Andreevich Vikentev, please enter."
Marfinka coloured, smoothed her hair, gave a tug to her fichu, and cast
a glance in the mirror. Raisky shook his finger at her, making her
colour more deeply.
"The person who stayed one night here," said Vassilissa to Raisky, "is
also asking for you."
"Markushka?" asked Tatiana Markovna in a horrified tone.
"Yes," said Vassilissa.
Raisky hurried out.
"How glad he is, how he rushes to meet him. Don't forget to ask him for
the money. Is he hungry? I will send food directly," cried his aunt
There stepped, or rather sprang into the room a fresh-looking,
well-built young man of middle height of about twenty-three years of age.
He had chestnut hair, a rosy face, grey-blue keen eyes, and a smile which
displayed a row of strong teeth. He laid on a chair with his hat a bunch
of cornflowers and a packet carefully done up in a handkerchief.
"Good-day, Tatiana Markovna; Good-day, Marfa Vassilievna," he cried. He
kissed the old lady's hand, and would have raised Marfinka's to his lips,
but she pulled it away, though he found time to snatch a hasty kiss from
"You haven't been to see us for three weeks," said Tatiana Markovna,
"I could not come. The Governor would not let me off. Orders were given
to settle up all the business in the office," said Vikentev, so
hurriedly that he nearly swallowed some of the words.
"That is absurd; don't listen to him, Granny," interrupted Marfinka. "He
hasn't any business, as he himself said."
"I swear I am up to my neck in work. We are now expecting a new chief
clerk, and I swear by God we have to sit up into the night."
"It is not the custom to appeal to God over such trifles. It is a sin,"
said Tatiana Markovna severely.
"What do you mean? Is it a trifle when Marfa Vassilievna will not
believe me, and I, by God-"
"Is it true, Tatiana Markovna, that you have a visitor? Has Boris
Pavlovich arrived? Was it he I met in the corridor? I have come on
"You see, Granny, he has come to see my cousin. Otherwise he would have
stayed away longer, wouldn't he?"
"As soon as I could tear myself away, I came here. Yesterday I was at
Kolchino for a minute, with Mama-"
"Is she well?"
"Thanks for the kind thought. She sends her kind regards and begs you
not to forget her nameday."
"Many thanks. I only don't know whether I can come myself. I am old, and
fear the crossing of the Volga."
"Without you, Granny, Vera and I will not go. We, too, are afraid of
crossing the Volga."
"Be ashamed of yourself, Marfa Vassilievna. What are you afraid of? I
will fetch you myself with our boat. Our rowers are singers."
"Under no circumstances will I cross with you. You never sit quiet in
the boat for a minute. What have you got alive in that handkerchief? See,
Granny, I am sure it's a snake."
"I have brought you a carp, Tatiana Markovna, which I have caught myself.
And these are for you, Marfa Vassilievna. I picked the cornflowers here
in the rye."
"You promised not to pick any without me. Now you have not put in an
appearance for more than two weeks. The cornflowers are all withered,
and what can I do with them?"
"Come with me, and we'll pick some fresh ones."
"Wait," called Tatiana Markovna. "You can never sit quiet, you have
hardly had time to show your nose, the perspiration still stands on your
forehead, and you are aching to be off. First you must have breakfast.
And you, Marfinka, find out if that person, Markushka, will have
anything. But don't go yourself, send Egorka."
Marfinka seized the carp's head with two fingers, but when he began to
wave his tail hither and thither, she uttered a loud cry, hastily
dropped him on the floor, and fled down the corridor.
Vikentev hurried after, and a few moments later Tatiana Markovna heard a
gay waltz in progress and a vigorous stampede, as if someone were
rolling down the steps. Soon the two of them tore across the courtyard
to the garden, Marfinka leading, and from the garden came the sound of
chattering, singing and laughter. Tatiana Markovna shook her head as she
looked through the window. Cocks, hens and ducks fled in panic, the dogs
dashed barking at Marfinka's heels, the servants put their heads out of
the windows of their quarters, in the garden the tall plants swayed
hither and hither, the flower beds were broken by the print of flying
feet, two or three vases were overturned, and every bird sought refuge
in the depths of the trees.
A quarter of an hour later, the two culprits sat with Tatiana Markovna
as politely as if nothing had happened. They looked gaily about the room
and at one another, as Vikentev wiped the perspiration from his face and
Marfinka fanned her burning face with her handkerchief.
"You are a nice pair," remarked Tatiana Markovna.
"He is always like that," complained Marfinka, "he chased me. Tell him
to sit quiet."
"It wasn't my fault, Tatiana Markovna. Marfa Vassilievna told me to go
into the garden, and she herself ran on in front."
"He is a man. But it does not become you, who are a girl, to do these
"You see what I have to endure through you," said Marfinka.
"Never mind, Marfa Vassilievna. Granny is only scolding a little, as she
is privileged to do."
"What do you say, Sir?" said Tatiana Markovna, catching his words. "Come
here, and since your Mama is not here, I will box your ears for you."
"But, Tatiana Markovna, you threaten these things and never do them," he
said, springing up to the old lady and bowing his head submissively.
"Do box his ears well, Granny, so that his ears will be red for a
"How did you come to be made of quicksilver?" said Tatiana Markovna,
affectionately. "Your late father was serious, never talked at random,
and even disaccustomed your mother from laughter!"
"Ah, Marfa Vassilievna," broke in Vikentev. "I have brought you some
music and a new novel."
"Where are they?"
"I left them in the boat. That's the fault of the carp. I will go and
fetch them now."
In a moment he was out of the door, and Marfinka would have followed if
her aunt had not detained her.
"What I wanted to say to you is--" she began.
She hesitated a little, as if she could not make up her mind to speak.
Marfinka came up to her, and the old lady smoothed her disordered hair.
"What then, Granny?"
"You are a good child, and obey every word of your grandmother's. You
are not like Veroshka...."
"Don't find fault with Veroshka, Granny!"
"No, you always defend her. She does indeed respect me, but she retains
her own opinion and does not believe me. Her view is that I am old,
while you two girls are young, know everything, and read everything. If
only she were right. But everything is not written in books," she added
with a sigh.
"What do you want to say to me?" asked Marfinka curiously.
"That a grown girl must be a little more cautious. You are so wild, and
run about like a child."
"I am not always running about. I work, sew embroider, pour out tea,
attend to the household. Why do you scold me, Grandmother," she asked
with tears in her eyes. "If you tell me I must not sing, I won't do it."
"God grant that you may always be as happy as a bird. Sing, play--"
"Then, why scold me?"
"I don't scold you; I only ask you to keep within bounds. You used to
run about with Nikolai Andreevich-"
Marfinka reddened and retired to her corner.
"That is no harm," continued Tatiana Markovna. "There is nothing against
Nikolai Andreevich, but he is just as wild as you are. You are my
dearest child, and you will remember what is due to your dignity."
Marfinka blushed crimson.
"Don't blush, darling. I know that you will do nothing wrong, but for
other people's sake you must be careful. Why do you look so angry. Come
and let me kiss you."
"Nikolai Andreevich will be here in a moment, and I don't know how to
Before Tatiana Markovna could answer Vikentev burst in, covered with
dust and perspiration, carrying music and a book which he laid on the
table by Marfinka.
"Give me your hand, Marfa Vassilievna," he cried, wiping his forehead.
"How I did run, with the dogs after me!"
Marfinka hid her hand, bowed, and returned with dignity:
_"Je vous remercie, monsieur Vikentev, vous Йtes bien amiable."_
He stared first at Marfinka, then at her aunt, and asked whether she
would try over a song with him.
"I will try it by myself, or in company with Grandmother."
"Let us go into the park, and I will read you the new novel," he then
said, picking up the book.
"How could I do such a thing?" asked Marfinka, looking demurely at her
aunt. "Do you think I am a child?"
"What is the meaning of this, Tatiana Markovna," stammered Vikentev in
amazement. "Marfa Vassilievna is unendurable." He looked at both of them,
walked into the middle of the room, assumed a sugary smile, bowed
slightly, put his hat under his arm, and struggling in vain to drag his
gloves on his moist hands began: "_Mille pardons, mademoiselle, de
vous avoir dИrangИe. Sacrebleu, ca n'entre pas. Oh mille pardons,
"Do stop, you foolish boy!"
Marfinka bit her lips, but could not help laughing.
"Just look at him, Granny! How can anybody keep serious when he mimics
Monsieur Charles so nicely?"
"Stop, children," cried Tatiana Markovna, her frown relaxing into smiles.
"Go, and God be with you. Do whatever you like."
Raisky's patience had to suffer a hard trial in Vera's indifference. His
courage failed him, and he fell into a dull, fruitless boredom. In this
idle mood he drew village scenes in his sketch album-he had already
sketched nearly every aspect of the Volga to be seen from the house or
the cliff-and he made notes in his note books. He hoped by these
occupations to free himself from his obsessing thoughts of Vera. He knew
he would do better to begin a big piece of work, instead of these
trifles. But he told himself that Russians did not understand hard work,
or that real work demanded rude strength, the use of the hands, the
shoulders and the back. He thought that in work of this kind a man lost
consciousness of his humanity, and experienced no pleasures in his
exertions; he shouldered his burden like a horse that seeks to ward off
the whip with his tail. Rough manual labour left no place for boredom.
Yet no one seeks distractions in work, but in pleasure. Work, not
appearances, he repeated, oppressed by the overpowering dulness which
drove him nearly mad, and created a frame of mind quite contrary to his
gentle temperament. I have no work, I cannot create as do artists who
are absorbed in their work, and are ready to die for it.
He took his cap and strolled into the outlying parts of the town, then
into the town, where he observed every passer-by, stared into the houses,
down the streets, and at last found himself standing before the Koslov's
house. Being told that Koslov was at the school, he inquired for Juliana
Andreevna. The woman who had opened the door to him, looked at him
askance, blew her nose with her apron, wiped it with her finger, and
vanished into the house for good. He knocked again, the dogs barked, and
then appeared a little girl, holding her finger to her mouth, who stared
at him and departed. He was about to knock again, but, instead, turned
to go. As he passed through the little garden he heard voices, Parisian
French, and a woman's voice; he heard laughter and even a kiss.
"Poor Leonti!" he whispered. "Or rather, blind Leonti!"
He stood uncertain whether to go or stay, then hastened his steps, and
determined to have speech with Mark. He sought distraction of some kind
to rid himself of his mood of depression, and to drive away the
insistent thoughts of Vera. Passing the warped houses, he left the town
and passed between two thick hedges beyond which stretched on both sides
"Where does the market gardener, Ephraim, live?" he asked, addressing a
woman over the hedge who was working in the beds.
Silently, without pausing in her work, she motioned with her elbow to a
hut standing isolated in the field. As he climbed over the fence, two
dogs barked furiously at him. From the door of the hut came a healthy
young woman with sunburnt face and bare arms, holding a baby.
She called off the dogs with curses, and asked Raisky whom he wished to
see. He was looking curiously round, since he did not understand how
anyone except the peasant and his wife could be living there. The hut,
against which were propped spades, rakes and other tools, planks and
pails, had neither yard nor fence; two windows looked out on the
vegetable garden, two others on the field. In the shed were two horses,
here was a pig surrounded by a litter of young, and a hen wandered
around with her chickens. A little further off stood some cars and a big
"Does Mark Volokov live here?" asked Raisky.
The woman pointed to the telega in silence.
"That's his room," she said, pointing to one of the windows. "He sleeps
in the telega."
"At this time of day?"
"He only came home this morning, probably rather drunk."
Raisky approached the telega.
"What do you want of him?" asked the woman.
"To visit him."
"Let him sleep."
"I am frightened here alone with him, and my husband won't be here yet.
I hope he'll sleep."
"Does he insult you?"
"No, it would be wicked to say such a thing. But he is so restless and
peculiar that I am afraid of him."
She rocked the child in her arms, and Raisky looked curiously under the
straw covering. Suddenly Mark's tangled hair and beard emerged and the
woman vanished into the hut as he cried, "Fool, you don't know how to
"Good-day! What has brought you here?" cried Mark as he crawled out of
the telega and stretched himself. "A visit, perhaps."
"I was taking a walk out of sheer boredom."
"Bored! with two beautiful girls at home. You, an artist, and you are
taking a walk out of sheer boredom. Don't your affections prosper?" he
winked. "They are lovely children, especially Vera?"
"How do you know my cousins, and in what way do they concern you?" asked
"Don't be vexed. Come into my drawing-room."
"Tell me rather why you sleep in the telega. Are you playing at
"Yes, because I must."
They entered the hut and went into a boarded compartment, where stood
Mark's bed with a thin old mattress, a thin wadded bed-cover and a tiny
pillow. Scattered on a shelf on the wall, and on the table lay books,
two guns hung on the wall, linen and clothes were tumbled untidily on
the only chair.
"This is my salon, sit down on the bed, and I will sit on the chair. Let
us take off our coats, for it is infernally hot. No ceremony, as there
are no ladies. That's right. Do you want anything? There is nothing but
milk and eggs. If you don't want any, give me a cigar."
"Many thanks. I have already breakfasted, and it will presently be
"Yes! You live with your Aunt. Weren't you expelled after having
harboured me in the night?"
"On the contrary, she reproached me with having allowed you to go to bed
without any dessert, and for not having demanded pillows."
"And didn't she rail against me?"
"As usual, but...."
"I know it is habit and does not come from her heart. She has the best
heart one can wish for, better than any here. She is bold, full of
character, and with a solid understanding; now indeed her brain is
"That is your opinion? You have found someone for whom you have
"Yes, especially in one respect. She cannot endure the Governor any more
than I can. I don't know what her reasons are; his position is enough
for me. We neither of us like the police; we are oppressed by them. The
old lady is compelled by them to carry out all sorts of repairs; to me
they pay far too much attention, find out where I live, whether I go far
from the town, and whom I visit."
Both fell silent.
"Now we have nothing more to talk about. Why did you come here?" asked
"Because I was bored."
"Fall in love."
Raisky was silent.
"With Vera," continued Mark. "Splendid girl, and she is related to you.
It must be easy for you to begin a romance with her."
Raisky made an angry gesture, to which Mark replied by a burst of
"Call the ancient wisdom to your help," he said. "Show outward coldness
when you are inwardly consumed, indifference of manner, pride,
contempt-every little helps. Parade yourself before her as suits
"Isn't it your calling to be eccentric?"
"Perhaps," remarked Raisky indifferently.
"I, for instance," said Mark, "should make direct for my goal, and
should be sure of victory. You may do the same, but you would do so
penetrated by the conviction that you stood on the heights and had drawn
her up to you, you idealist. Show that you understand your calling, and
you may succeed. It's no use to wear yourself out with sighs, to be
sleepless, to watch for the raising of the lilac curtain by a white hand,
to wait a week for a kindly glance."
Raisky rose, furious.
"Ah, I have hit the bull's eye."
Raisky put compulsion on himself to restrain his rage, for every
involuntary expression or gesture of anger would have meant nothing less
"I should very well like to fall in love, but I cannot," he yawned,
counterfeiting indifference. "It is unsuited to my years and doesn't
cure my boredom."
"Try it," teased Mark. "Let us have a wager that in a week you will be
as enamoured as a young cat. And within two months, or perhaps one, you
will have perpetrated so many follies that you will not know how to get
away from here."
"If I am, with what will you pay?" asked Raisky in a tone bordering on
"I will give you my trousers or my gun. I possess only two pairs of
trousers. The tailor has recovered a third pair for debt. Wait, I will
try on your coat. Why, it fits as if I were poured into a mould. Try
"I should like to see whether it suits you. Please try it on, do."
Raisky was indulgent enough to allow himself to be persuaded, and put on
Mark's worn, dirty coat.
"Well, does it suit?"
"Wear it then. You don't wear a coat long, while for me it lasts for two
years. Besides, whether you are contented or not I shan't take yours off
my shoulders. You would have to steal it from me."
Raisky shrugged his shoulders.
"Does the wager hold!" asked Mark.
"What put you on to that-you will excuse me-ridiculous idea?"
"Don't excuse yourself. Does it hold?"
"The wager is not equal. You have no possessions."
"Don't be disturbed on that account. I shall not have to pay. If my
prophecy comes true, then you will pay me three hundred roubles, which
would come in very conveniently."
"What nonsense," said Raisky, as he stood up and reached for his cap and
"At the latest you will be in love in a fortnight. In a month you will
be groaning, wandering about like a ghost, playing your part in a drama,
or possibly in a tragedy, and ending, as all your like do, with some
piece of folly. I know you, I can see through you."
"But if, instead my falling in love with her, she were to fall in love
"Vera! with you!"
"Yes, Vera, with me."
"Then I will find a double pledge, and bring it to you."
"You are a madman!" said Raisky, and went without bestowing a further
glance on Mark.
"In one month's time I shall have won three hundred roubles," Mark cried
Raisky walked angrily home. "I wonder where our charmer is now," he
wondered gloomily. "Probably sitting on her favourite bench, admiring
the view. I will see." As he knew Vera's habits, he could say with
nearly complete certainty where she would be at any hour of the day. He
went over to the precipice, and saw her, as he had thought, sitting on
the bench with a book in her hand. Instead of reading she looked out,
now over the Volga, now into the bushes. When she saw Raisky, she rose
slowly and walked over to the old house. He signed to her to wait for
him, but she either did not perceive the sign, or did not wish to do so.
When she reached the courtyard she quickened her steps, and disappeared
within the door of the old house.
Raisky could hardly control his rage. "And a stupid girl like that
thinks that I am in love with her," he thought. "She has not the
remotest conception of manners." In offering the wager, Mark had stirred
up all the bitterness latent in him. He hardly looked at Vera when he
sat opposite her at dinner. If he happened to raise his eyes, it was as
if he were dazed by a flash of lightning. Once or twice she had looked
at him in a kind, almost affectionate way, but his wild glance betrayed
to her the agitation, of which she deemed herself to be the cause, and
to avoid meeting his eyes she bent her head over her empty plate.
"After dinner, I shall drive with Marfinka to the hay harvest," said
Tatiana Markovna to Raisky. "Will you bestow on your meadows the honour
of your presence, Sir?"
"I have no inclination to go," he murmured.
"Does the world go so hard with you?" asked Tatiana Markovna. "You are
indeed weighed down with work."
He looked at Vera, who was mixing red wine with water. She emptied her
glass, rose, kissed her aunt's hand, and went out.
Raisky too rose, and went to his room. His aunt, Marfinka, and Vikentev,
who had just happened to turn up, drove to the hay harvest, and the
afternoon peace soon reigned over the house. One man crawled into the
hayrick, another in the outhouse, another slept in the family carriage
itself, while others took advantage of the mistress's absence to go into
the outskirts of the town.
Raisky's thoughts were filled with Vera. Although he had sworn to
himself to think of her no more, he could not conquer his thoughts.
Where was she? He would go to her and talk it all over. He was inspired
only with curiosity, he assured himself. He took his cap and hurried out.
Vera was neither in the room nor in the old house; he searched for her
in vain on the field, in the vegetable garden, in the thicket on the
cliff, and went to look for her down along the bank of the Volga. When
he found no one he turned homewards, and suddenly came across her a few
steps from him, not far from the house.
"Ah!" he cried, "there you are. I have been hunting for you everywhere."
"And I have been waiting for you here," she returned.
He felt as if he were suddenly enveloped in winter in the soft airs of
"You-waiting for me," he said in a strange voice, and looked at her in
"I wanted to ask you why you pursue me?"
Raisky looked at her fixedly.
"I hardly ever speak to you."
"It is true that you rarely talk to me, but you look at me in such a
wild and extraordinary fashion that it constitutes a kind of pursuit.
And that is not all; you quietly follow my steps. You get up earlier
than I do, and wait for me to wake, draw my curtains back, and open the
window; whatever way I take in the park, and wherever I sit down, I must
"Three or four times a week. It would not be often and would not annoy
me, quite the reverse, if it occurred without intention. But in your
eyes and steps I see only one thing, the continual effort to give me no
peace, to master my every glance, word and thought."
He was amazed at her boldness and independence, at the freedom of her
speech. He saw before him, as he imagined, the little girl who had
nervously concealed herself from him for fear that her egoism might
suffer through the inequality of her brains, her ideas and her education.
This was a new figure, a new Vera.
"What if all this exists only in your imagination?" he said undecidedly.
"Don't lie to me," she interrupted. "If you are successful in observing
my every footstep, my every moment, at least permit me to be conscious
of the discomfort of such observation. I tell you plainly that it
oppresses me; it is slavery; I feel like a prisoner."
"What do you ask of me?"
"Freedom-I am your chevalier-therefore...."
"Therefore you will not leave a poor girl room to breathe. Tell me, what
reason have I given you to regard me differently from any other girl?"
"Beauty adores admiration; it is her right."
"Beauty has also a right to esteem and freedom. Is it an apple hanging
on the other side of the hedge, that every passer-by can snatch at?"
"Don't agitate yourself, Vera!" he begged, taking her hands. "I confess
my guilt. I am an artist, have a susceptible temperament, and perhaps
abandoned myself too much to my impressions. Then I am no stranger. Let
us be reconciled, Vera. Tell me your wishes, and they shall be sacredly
fulfilled. I will do what pleases you, will avoid what offends you, in
order to deserve your friendship."
"I told you from the beginning, you remember, how you could show me your
sympathy, by not observing me, by letting me go my way and taking no
notice of me. Then I will come of myself, and we will fix the hours that
we will spend together, reading or walking."
"You ask me, Vera, to be utterly indifferent to you?"
"Not to notice how lovely you are? To look at you as if you were
Grandmother. But even if I adore your beauty in silence from a distance,
you would know it, and can you forbid me that? Passion may melt the
surface and there may steal into your heart an affection for me. Don't
let me leave you without any hope. Can you not give me any?"
"How can you tell? There may come a time."
"No, Cousin, never."
Unmanned by terror, he collected his strength to say breathlessly:
"You are no longer free? You love?"
She knit her brow and looked down on the Volga.
"And is there any sin if I do? Will you not permit it, Cousin?" she
"I! I, who bring you the lofty philosophy of freedom, how should I not
permit you to love. Love independently of everybody, conceal nothing,
fear neither Granny nor anyone else. The dawn of freedom is red in the
sky, and shall woman alone be enslaved? You love. Say so boldly, for
passion is happiness, and allow others at least to envy you."
"I concede no one the right to call me to account; I am free."
"But you are afraid of Grandmother."
"I am afraid of no one. Grandmother knows it, and respects my freedom.
And my wish is that you should follow her example. That is all I wanted
to say," she concluded as she rose from the bench.
"Yes, Vera, now I understand, and am in accord with you," he replied,
rising also. "Here is my hand on it, that from to-day you will neither
hear nor notice my presence."
She gave her hand, but drew it rapidly back as he pressed it to his lips.
"We will see," she said. "But if you don't keep your word, we will see-"
"Say all you have to say, Vera, or my head will go to pieces."
Vera looked long at the prospect before her before she ended with
"Then however dearly I love this place, I will leave it."
"To go where?"
"God's world is wide. Au revoir, Cousin!"
A few days later Raisky got up about five o'clock. The sun was already
full on the horizon, a wholesome freshness rose from garden and park,
flowers breathed a deeper perfume, and the dew glittered on the grass.
He dressed quickly and went out into the garden, when he suddenly met
"It is not intentional, not intentional, I swear," he stammered in his
They both laughed. She picked a flower, threw it to him, and gave him
her hand; and in reply to the kiss he gave she kissed him on the
"It was not intentional, Vera," he repeated. "You see yourself."
"I see you are good and kind."
"Generous," he added.
"We have not got to generosity yet," she said laughing, and took his arm.
"Let us go for a walk; it's a lovely morning."
He felt unspeakably happy.
"What coat are you wearing?" she asked in surprise as they walked. "It
is not yours."
"Ah, it is Mark's."
"Is he here? How did you come by his coat?"
"Are you frightened? The whole house fears him like fire?" And he
explained how he got the coat. She listened absently as they went
silently down the main path of the garden, Vera with her eyes on the
Against his will he felt impelled to seek another argument with her.
"You seem to have something on your mind," she began, "which you do not
wish to tell."
"I did wish to, but I feared the storm I might draw upon myself."
"You did not wish to discuss beauty once more?"
"No, no, I want to explain what my feeling for you is. I am convinced
that this time I am not in error. You have opened to me a special door
of your heart, and I recognise that your friendship would bring great
happiness, and that its soft tones would bring colour into my dull life.
Do you think, Vera, that friendship is possible between a man and a
"Why not? If two such friends can make up their minds to respect one
another's freedom, if one does not oppress the other, does not seek to
discover the secret of the other's heart, if they are in constant,
natural intercourse, and know how to respect secrets...."
His eyes blazed. "Pitiless woman," he broke in.
She had seen the glance, and lowered her eyes.
"We will go in to Grandmother. She has just opened the window, and will
call us to tea?"
"One word more, Vera. You have wisdom, lucidity, decision...."
"What is wisdom?" she asked mischievously.
"Observation and experience, harmoniously applied to life."
"I have hardly any experience."
"Nature has bestowed on you a sharp eye and a clear brain."
"Is not such a possession disgraceful for a girl?"
"Your wholesome ideas, your cultivated speech...."
"You are surprised that a drop of village wisdom should have descended
on your poor sister. You would have preferred to find a fool in my place,
wouldn't you, and now you are annoyed?"
"No, Vera, you intoxicate me. You do indeed forbid me to mention your
beauty by so much as a syllable, and will not hear why I place it so
high. Beauty is the aim and at the same time the driving power of art,
and I am an artist. The beauty of which I speak is no material thing,
she does not kindle her fires with the glow of passionate desire alone;
more especially she awakens the man in man, arouses thought, inspires
courage, fertilises the creative power of genius, even when that genius
stands at the culmination of its dignity and power; she does not scatter
her beams for trifles, does not besmirch purity-she is womanly wisdom.
You are a woman, Vera, and understand what I mean. Your hand will not be
raised to punish the man, the artist, for this worship of beauty."
"According to you wisdom lies in keeping these rules before one's eyes
as the guiding thread of life, in which case I am not wise, I have not
'received this baptism.'"
An emotion closely related to sadness shone in her eyes, as she gazed
upwards for a moment before she entered the house. Raisky anxiously told
himself that she was as enigmatic as night itself, and he wondered what
was the origin of these foreign ideas and whether her young life was
On Sunday Tatiana Markovna had guests for the second breakfast. The
covers had been removed from the purple damask-covered chairs in the
reception room. Yakob had rubbed the eyes of the family portraits with a
damp rag, and they appeared to look forth more sharply than on ordinary
days. The freshly waxed floors shone. Yakob himself paraded in a dress
coat and a white necktie, while Egorka, Petrushka and Stepka, the latter
of whom had been fetched from the village and had not yet found his legs,
had been put into old liveries which did not fit them and smelt of moth.
The dining-room and the reception room had been fumigated just before
Tatiana Markovna herself, in a silk dress and shawl, with her cap on the
back of her head, sat on the divan. Near her the guests had taken their
places in accordance with their rank and dignity. The place of honour
was occupied by Niel Andreevich Tychkov, in a dress coat with an order,
an important old gentleman whose eyebrows met in his great fat face,
while his chin was lost in his cravat. The consciousness of his dignity
appeared in every gesture and in his condescending speech. Next him sat
the invariably modest Tiet Nikonich, also in a dress coat, with a glance
of devotion for Tatiana Markovna, and a smile for all. Then followed the
priest in a silk gown with a broad embroidered girdle, the councillors
of the local court, the colonel of the garrison, ladies from the town;
young officials who stood talking in undertones in a corner; young girls,
friends of Marfinka, who timidly clasped their damp hands and
continually changed colour; finally a proprietor from the neighbourhood
with three half-grown sons.
When the company had already been assembled for some little time at the
breakfast-table, Raisky entered. He felt that he was playing the rТle of
an actor, fresh to the place, making his first appearance on the
provincial stage after the most varying reports had been spread about
Tatiana Markovna introduced him as "My nephew, the son of my late niece
Sfonichka," though everybody knew who he was. Several people stood up to
greet him. Niel Andreevich, who expected that he would come and speak to
him, gave him a friendly smile; the ladies pulled their dresses straight
and glanced at the mirror; the young officials who were standing eating
off their plates in the corner shifted from one foot to the other; and
the young girls blushed still more and pressed their hands as if danger
Raisky bowed to the assembled guests, and sat down beside his aunt on
"Look how he throws himself down," whispered a young official to his
neighbour. "His Excellency is looking at him."
"Niel Andreevich has been wanting to see you for a long time," said
Tatiana Markovna aloud, adding under her breath, "His Excellency, don't
forget." In the same low tone Raisky asked who the little lady was with
the fine teeth and the well-developed figure.
"Shame, Boris Pavlovich," and aloud, "Niel Andreevich, Borushka has been
desiring to present himself to you for a long time."
Raisky was about to reply when Tatiana Markovna pressed his hand,
"Why have you not given me the pleasure of a visit from you before,"
said Niel Andreevich with a kindly air. "Good men are always welcome.
But it is not amusing to visit us old people, and the new generation do
not care for us, do they? And you hold with the young people. Answer
"I do not divide mankind into the old and the new generation," said
Raisky, helping himself to a slice of cake.
"Don't hurry about eating; talk to him," whispered Tatiana Markovna.
"I will eat and talk at the same time," he returned aloud.
Tatiana Markovna looked confused, and turned her back on him.
"Don't disturb him," continued Niel Andreevich. "Young people are like
that. I am curious to know how you judge men, Boris Pavlovich."
"By the impression they produce on me."
"Admirable. I like you for your candour. Let us take an example. What is
your opinion of me?"
"I am afraid of you."
Niel Andreevich laughed complacently.
"Tell me why. You may speak quite plainly."
"Why I am afraid of you? They say you find fault with everybody," he
went on, heedless of Tatiana Markovna's efforts to interrupt. "My
Grandmother tells me that you lectured one man for not having attended
Tatiana Markovna went hot all over, and taking off her cap, put it down
"I am glad she told you that. I like to have my doings correctly
reported. Yes, I do lecture people sometimes. Do you remember?" he
appealed to the young men at the door.
"At your service, your Excellency," answered one of them quickly,
putting one foot forward and his hands behind his back. "I once received
"I was unsuitably dressed."
"You came to me one Sunday after Mass. I was glad to see you, but
instead of appearing in a dress coat, you came in a short jacket."
At this point Paulina Karpovna rustled in,